SAULT STE. MARIE - Hundreds of people lined the snowbanks along Great Northern Road for hours on Thursday in support of a convoy making its way to Ottawa in protest of vaccine mandates for truck drivers.
The western contingent of what's been called the Freedom Convoy 2022 rolled into Sault Ste. Marie after 9 p.m. on Thursday after some weather delays. A separate southern Ontario group arrived in Toronto on Thursday, also on its way to Ottawa.
The western convoy was not at its full capacity when it arrived in the Sault after a decision was made earlier Thursday to split it into two groups, one making its way to Ottawa through the Sault, the other through Highway 11. The two groups plan to reunite in North Bay.
The Ontario Provincial Police reported 113 commercial vehicles and 276 personal vehicles entered Ontario from Manitoba during an earlier leg of the journey.
People lined Great Northern Road in small groups on snowbanks and in parking lots from about Fifth Line to Second Line. Counted together, those small groups cheering on the convoy counted into the hundreds.
Many supporters were waving Canadian flags or flags with anti-Justin Trudeau sentiments. Some held signs against vaccine mandates or in general support of truckers.
The convoy is expected to leave Sault Ste. Marie in the morning on its way to the nation's capitol.
The OPP said they are working to minimize the impact on the travelling public and to ensure order and public safety.
Motorists are being advised to check ahead for road closure information and to monitor local media for information and alternative routes.
As specific delays become known, the OPP will forward information to media outlets for broadcast as on their own social media channels.